Chapter 9. The Unintentional Nonverbals

So far, you've learned how to choreograph your gestures, eye contact, voice, and breathing to make an integrated message. Unintentional gestures are emotional reactions or the result of the body's desire for physical comfort and are often lovingly called fidgets. All can confuse the integrity of your message. An example of a physical comfort gesture is crossing your arms as you listen. In this example, the movement happens because of the desire for physical comfort, although an observer may assume you have closed yourself off. Movements made for physical comfort are just that. Remember, it is the pattern of behaviors and all movements that must be looked at in context.

Even though fidgets can calm us, those pesky, jerky movements or anxious behaviors often make others uneasy. Because they often become habits, they can be difficult to stop, so people usually try to disguise them. Adjusting a cuff link, rubbing an earlobe, and picking lint off clothes are just a few examples of the infamous fidget. While they're a comforting behavior, they send a clear, nonverbal signal of nervousness. Hands are not the only fidget offenders; there is a wide range of unintentional nonverbal fidgets:

  • Touching the face and neck.

  • Stroking or smoothing the hair.

  • Rocking, swaying, or pacing.

  • Vibrating your leg while seated.

  • Clicking your pen or picking fingernails.

  • Playing with jewelry.

  • Inhaling, then blowing the exhale through the mouth.

  • Laughing and sniffing.

The fidget ...

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